In accepting the report of "The Ringing World" Committee, the Central Council at Nottingham in 1967 asked the committee to include in its report to be submitted in 1968 "a statement on the measures it had taken and the plans it had made for widening the appeal of the 'R.W' to all sections of the ringing community." We have thought it wise to make this appendix very full to refresh the memories of those interested.
It will be recalled that at the meeting of the Council at Bath in 1967, criticisms of the "R.W." and the committee came to a head. Let us first examine the situation up to that time. The Council took over in 1942 a business which was "in the red" and a big financial risk was incurred for the sake of the Exercise. It will be generally admitted that the "R.W." is essential to communication within the Exercise. By careful husbandry during 20 years of continually rising prices, the committee has managed to keep solvent, aware that often that position was only realised by the generosity of individual ringers and some Associations and by keeping expense to a bare minimum. Every time a price rise became essential because of increased costs, the circulation dropped and the heavy task of building up had to start all over again. All this time, too, the work has had to be done with a very limited staff, on limited salaries and with the limited accommodation and facilities which were made available free by the printers.
Gradually over these years the funds of the "R.W." have been built up to about the equivalent of one year's expenditure at present rates. This we submit is no more than prudent in times like the present, bearing in mind that the risk of heavy additional expenditure is always just around the next corner.
Many of the suggestions which were made, or hinted at, at Bath or have been put forward since, have been constantly in mind during all this time. It will be recalled that the committee issued a special jubilee number in 1961, considering the extra cost justified on this special occasion. A competition was also held to see whether a new front page design could be found acceptable to the Exercise, but at that time it was clear that a change was not generally desired.
With a view to greater economy in that part of the paper, various changes in peal layouts have been tried, and each has been strongly criticised at the time. In this matter, where the Exercise is very conservative, none of the changes was popular, but the economy was essential and some of us have grown to accept different styles even if we don't like them.
Having reached the stage when insolvency was no longer imminent, the committee accepted that it was time to modernise cautiously, step by step. It was thought that the financial risk could be taken without betraying the trust which the Council had given them. So at Bath one of the committee's recommendations was that a new, younger member of the Council, who had shown his capabilities and keenness (and his willingness to help in our work) should be added to the committee.
Now to summarise the events at Bath. The committee's report referred to changes at Guildford and to inevitable increases in charges which would cause further financial anxiety. They indicated, however, that they had decided not to raise the price of the paper during 1966, except perhaps that any increase in postage might have to be passed on to new postal subscribers. The convener gave further information about increased costs; pointed out that the committee had agreed changes in investment policy giving an increased income; said that the circulation was about 5,600, which was an increase of 120-130 over the years before; and announced that by the judicious operating of funds by his predecessor the "R.W." account was in a good position. The Standing Committee recommended the adoption of the report and accounts and the addition of Mr. D. A. Bayles to the committee.
Mr. G. W. Pipe was concerned with the non-financial side of the matter. He was confident that the number of subscribers could be doubled. He had twenty suggestions and criticisms to ask the "R.W." Committee to consider. Mr. D. Beresford wanted a new committee with original ideas, so that they could expect the "R.W." to adopt a forward looking attitude. The Rev. J. Scott couldn't find the "R.W." on a station bookstall and supported the previous speakers. Mr. Chaddock asked the committee not to worry about financial loss, even if it amounted to a thousand pounds or two, if it would increase the sales! He suggested that the Editor did not receive sufficiently good contributions (literary presumably, not financial). Another member suggested paying for contributions.
Mr. White, the Editor, said he had not seen Mr. Pipe's twenty suggestions, but every one of those Mr. Pipe had sent in same time ago had been previously thought of and considered by the committee. After referring to the essential contents of the paper, he told the Council that brightening the paper could not double the circulation. There was great difficulty in holding the circulation.
After further discussion, Mr. R. S. Anderson reminded the Council that when the price was raised from 6d. to 8d., the circulation dropped from 6,000 to 5,000. When suggestions for a new front page design were obtained they were rejected be the Exercise. The difference in cost between a 16 page and a 24 page issue was £50 - i.e., £2,600 a year. The 1966 surplus was £1,047, which included £268 from investments and £676 from donations. Mr. Smallwood feared it would be easy to dispose of the balance built up by much hard work. The solution was increased circulation first - then the news could be spread over bigger and brighter paper.
Considerable discussion ensued over the possibility of forming an "ad hoc" committee to examine the position of the "R.W.", but after the lunch adjournment helpful speeches by Mr. Speed and Mr. Lufkin were against such a committee, but sought an opportunity to vote for a new "R.W." Committee individually, to obtain new members with new ideas. A notable contribution was Mrs. Staniforth's "let's all be for the 'R.W.' and not against it." Finally the "ad hoc" committee suggestion was defeated overwhelmingly; ten names were proposed individually for a committee of six members; and on a ballot three of the existing committee were re-elected, and Messrs. Bayles, Beresford and Pipe were appointed new members.
The front page article of "R.W." of June 17th, 1966, summed up the salient features of the debate admirably - to avoid repetition we quote merely some phrases from it:
"The Standing Committee were satisfied with the report and the competence of the committee and wanted them to carry on with the addition of Mr. D. A. Bayles."
"It soon became evident … that the critics were organized."
"None of the critics attempted to define what they meant by a brighter newspaper."
"Above all we must endeavour to keep the present price stable. An increase to one shilling could mean a drop of one thousand in circulation."
It was clearly desirable in the circumstances outlined above that the new committee, elected on May 31st, should meet as soon as possible and attempts were made to find a suitable date. July 30th was reserved for a meeting, but owing to the inability of two of the new members to attend, this was cancelled and it did not in the end prove possible to arrange a meeting until October 8th. One possible advantage of this delay, however, could have been that any new proposals for consideration could have been circulated before the meeting.
Meanwhile on June 26th Messrs. Beresford and Pipe addressed a letter to the convener, the key-points of which are quoted or summarised below:
(a) "If we are now able to take some bold imaginative steps."
(b) "We are of the opinion that it is now sufficiently financially stable to develop it in size and content."
(c) Could the first meeting of the committee be spread over two days, so that the "new boys" could put themselves in the picture?
(d) We feel the proposals can be considered under the following headings:
What is likely to be the financial result for 1966?
What are the magnitude of the increased cost factors forecast for 1967?
… What is the circulation required to support a 24 page "R.W." weekly, once a fortnight or once a month?
How are the administrative costs increased as circulation rises?
(e) On the answers to these questions depends the practicability of planning an extensive sales development programme on which, with an improved paper with more space devoted to the many aspects of ringing, we might hope to achieve a higher circulation.
(f) We feel a minimum 24 page paper weekly is essential.
Most of these very laudable sentiments and our comments on them will be found later. It was clear that any firm ideas needed thought and expert advice before a meeting could make firm decisions. It may, therefore, suffice at this stage merely to comment on
(b) The opinion that the "R.W." is financially stable prejudges the consideration asked for under (d).
A development in size and content depends on many other things as well as finance.
(c) We have seen above (para. 13) the fate of this suggested two day meeting.
(d) It has always been normal practice for the "R.W." Committee to consider expected income and expenditure - a favourable balance could hardly have been built up otherwise.
On September 20th (three weeks before the date of the committee meeting) the convener was "still pressing for suggestions." On September 29th the convener circulated copies of a letter (17-9-66) which Mr. Pipe had sent to the Editor (and to the committee) with a "mock-up" of a 24 page issue, designed to be the basis "to achieve a new look as far as the cover is concerned, regular features and contents on a family journal pattern, wide scope for advertising and something for everybody." The letter admitted that "so much of all this centres around cost. It may be that these suggestions are just out of the question." But it did not say how all these extra pages, every week, were to be filled, either by whom or how the present limited staff and office facilities could cope, even if the cost could be met. One proposal was for an already very busy clerical member of the Council to write a half page every fortnight!
On the Thursday/Friday before Saturday, October 8th, the members of the committee received a seven page foolscap document, photocopied and not completely legible, posted late on October 5th, unsigned and undated, merely headed "To all members of the 'R.W.' Committee." It dealt mainly with financial matters. We will call this Document A. At about the same time appeared another document of six foolscap pages, also unsigned and undated, headed "Scope and Content." (Document B)
These two documents apparently form the 13 pages of suggestions, etc., referred to in subsequent debate and we propose, therefore, to quote from them fairly fully, each quotation to be followed by comment, where appropriate.
(i) Quote: "To satisfy the various needs of all sectors of ringing we believe a weekly 24 page paper should be the objective."
Comment: Apart from the cost, the existing staff could not cope with 24 pages every week, even if the material to fill those pages was available.
(ii) Quote: "The cover.- we would propose the adoption of a heavier paper for the outside cover … to enable good reproduction of a photograph. Problems we envisaged were -
(a) Cost of two-colour printing if desirable. (b) Problem of folding - will it spoil the quality of the photograph? (c) Cost of paper. (d) Cost of blocks and photographs.
Answers provided by the Editor to the first three points are: (a) £1 per 100 copies additional cost. (b) No problems for 50 lb. weight paper. (c) £50 …
The additional cost (of a weekly 24 page paper with heavier weight cover) would be of the order of £75 a week; with no heavier weight cover £50 a week …
In summary we would recommend …
1st choice - A 24 page paper with heavier weight cover
2nd choice - A 24 page paper with uniform paper throughout."
"We would strongly urge a bold choice" of the first choice recommended above.
Comment: This is a firm recommendation from two very new members that the Exercise should commit itself to spending £75 more a week (£4,000 a year). The surplus for 1965 was only just over £1,000. This to produce an enlarged paper with no assurance that it could be filled. It does not allow for additional staff or for adequate office space. The additional cost could well be some £6,000 a year. Increased size and weight might mean increased postage.
(iii) Quote: "The cover photograph.- The appearance of the cover is of tremendous importance in presenting an attractive paper. The cost of the block would be £2 and we feel that many of the Associations would respond to an appeal …"
Comment: Attractive covers are being produced as often as cost will allow. The desirability of this has always been recognised (see paragraph 4 above). The committee agree only too readily that its latest attempt was given a wonderful send off by the picture of "Mancroft," obtained by Mr. Pipe himself.
(iv) Quote: "Organisation.- It is recognised that expansion of the paper to one of 24 pages weekly would entail a considerable increase in the work required of the Editor in soliciting articles."
Comment: It would require far more work for the Editor than asking for articles. He has a full time job now.
(v) Quote: "It is therefore proposed that members of the "R.W." Committee should play a more active role … and that responsibility for certain sections should be assumed by various committee members."
Comment: This is not new. Members of the committee have always made themselves responsible for series of articles and have always encouraged others to do so. But to obtain articles of the length and at the rate suggested later is another matter entirely, especially as we can't necessarily afford them.
(vi) Quote: "We feel strongly that some financial recompense should be offered to those who spend … time writing the feature articles for the paper. In the proposed paper we have two features weekly - one general, one technical … we anticipate requiring … 80-90 of these per year … these articles should be commissioned for a particular date and a fee should be paid … we propose a figure of £3 10s. for a full page article."
Comment: The layout suggested in Document B (see paragraph 20) suggests a feature article on page 3; a beginners' corner on page 7; the half page a fortnight suggested in para. 16 above, a page of call change news and articles about this aspect of ringing; and a page for a technical feature. This makes at least 156 pages of articles a year. Cost of payment over £500. The number of people who have the ability and are willing to devote the time necessary to write worthwhile articles for the "R.W." is extremely limited. They write them because of their strong desire to help the "R.W.", or because they feel strongly about something. The likelihood that payment would produce worthwhile articles from others, in the quantity indicated and at fixed dates is remote. What happens to those contributors who are not offered payment? Who makes the invidious choice? Who does the necessary tax correspondence?
(vii) Quote: FINANCE. A paragraph of Document A was devoted to a re-examination of the policy of persuading people to take the "R.W." by post and figures were produced suggesting that the income per copy from postal subscribers was very little more than that for newsagent subscribers.
Comment: Postal copies are needed for many subscribers.
(viii) Quote: Increased costs for 24 page paper in 1967. Figures were given indicating an annual increase in cost of £4,855 in the case recommended earlier as first choice. Against this it was estimated that £500-£1,000 should be obtained from advertising - more space should be sold. It is claimed that an increase of 3d. week would amply cover the most favoured case and give an excess income of £300 a year.
Comment: Once again it will be noted that no increased cost for staff or office facilities is included. It is not shown how a paper with the limited technical appeal and limited circulation of the "R.W." can increase advertising revenue in the manner indicated. An increase of 3d. a week is estimated by the Editor to produce, say, £20 a week to the "R.W.", allowing for the fact that the "R.W." would not get the whole of the 3d. and there would inevitably be a drop in circulation, as experience has shown. The only acceptable justification for an increase in price would be the danger of cessation of publication for lack of funds.
(ix) Quote: Circulation.- A paragraph gives target figures for a planned increase in circulation.
Comment: If the committee, by maintaining the present price and by the alterations it has made and is making in the "R.W." to date, can continue the present gradual increase in circulation, this will be more useful than setting imaginary targets that may or may not be met. Targets can be limiting as well as stimulating!
(x) Quote: "We believe a number of Associations … donate a sum of money each year to the 'R.W.' A suggestion is that this money is used by these Associations to provide half price or quarter price copies … to certain cases."
Comment: There is nothing, except the work involved, to stop any Association doing this now, so long as the copies so sold are additional copies and the scheme does not mean that a full paying subscriber ceases to pay full price.
(xi) Quote: Document A concludes with a summary of proposed action, the only new points made being a reference to a census (to be taken in December, 1966); the launching of the "new" paper on May 5th 1967; and a suggestion to "invite someone with experience in this field to work with the committee on the obtaining of advertisements. A name we would like to put forward would be that of …"
Comment: It took until March, 1967, to launch the census (by the proposer of it).
To fix a definite date for a "new" paper, with all the considerations referred to above and also dealt with in paragraph 20, before the new committee had even met, let alone considered the matter, seems premature.
Any offer, by Mr. X or anyone else, to help with advertisements would of course be welcomed - it should not need an invitation.
(i) Quote: "We have assumed as a basic exercise a weekly issue of 24 pages as normal."
Comment: A rash assumption. See paragraphs 13, 16 and 19 (ii), above.
(ii) Quote: "We then envisage the inside pages running to a fairly regular pattern week by week."
Comment: They do now and always have done. This is normal for any newspaper.
(iii) Quote: Page 1. Title page. Suggestions for heavier quality paper; additional colour; new-look designs; photographs - Associations to donate; responsibility for title page to be on one member of the committee.
Comment: Most of these points are covered earlier, the Editor must be responsible for day to day working under the policy direction of the whole committee. The committee cannot act as six individuals, each responsible for his own little job. What happens if he resigns unexpectedly?
(iv) Quote: Page 2. Full details of the journal, subscription rates, etc. This week's contents, and a "crisp, pithy, pertinent editorial comment." This then dispenses with formalities and "the remainder of the magazine unfolds into a meaty, well organised document."
Comment: The "R.W." is a newspaper. The Editor may not always have a "crisp, pithy, pertinent" comment to make.
(v) Quote: Page 3. Features. An article about one of the aspects of bell ringing. Examples are given. 23 names are given of people who could write these articles.
Comment: Some of those named already do more than their share; others write occasionally when they feel strongly about something. If they could each find time and were willing (John Betjeman was one name!) to write two a year, that would not even suffice for one year.
(vi) Quote: Page 4. Meetings. Small coverage at present.
Comment: Unless Association officers send in readable accounts of meetings they cannot be published.
(vii) Quote: Page 5. Letters. "One would assume that with a livelier magazine the quantity and quality of the letters will be proportionately larger - calling for perhaps a further half page."
Comment: Experience suggests that the quantity of letters varies in inverse proportion to their quality. An acrimonious correspondence seems to be the only kind that does not fizzle out quickly. All Editors want to receive good, helpful letters - they can be the most interesting part of any newspaper, but so far a regular page full of printable letters is the exception.
(viii) Quote: Page 6. Letters and outings.
Comment: See above for letters. Outings will not fill a page in the winter.
(ix) Quote: Page 7. Beginners' Course. "It is recognised that sufficient material for a whole page every week would be hard to achieve, but … they must have their page. Any short fall of copy could allow the space to be utilised for outings, meetings, letters, etc."
Comment: We have already noted that letters and outings are unlikely to need extra space. Some of the committee consider that beginners are unlikely to be induced to pay 9d. each week in the hope of getting a short article useful to them when for 1s. or 2s. they can buy the appropriate booklets. Other members of the committee have written many articles for beginners and knew that 52 pages a year, every year, is very difficult, if not impossible.
(x) Quote: Page 8. Quarters. "A slightly modified layout is desirable to relieve the monotony of a mass of small print."
Comment: This would cost more and use more space for the sake of using it.
(xi) Quote: Page 9. Half page quarters. "The other half page may be considered flexible - suggestions here are:
(a) Every two weeks or month - Canon 'X.'
(b) Alternating with any other readers observations of matters of interest.
(c) Merits or otherwise of various compositions."
Comment: On (a) - Canon "X" is a very busy man, who does a fairly regular annual or biennial article. We must not assume he can spare more time.
On (b), surely this would be letters - already amply catered for.
On (c) - But see suggestion for page 16 (see quote (xv) below).
(xii) Quote: Page 10. Belfry Gossip, "A full page - with illustrations if possible."
Comment: To fill regularly a full page when all the events of the week have had ample space in other pages would be very difficult unless readers are much more helpful in this respect than they are now. Illustrations would involve still more expense - not included in the calculations in paragraph 19 (ii) above.
(xiii) Quote: Pages 11-14. Peals. Central four pages, as being easy to find. "More thought needs to be given to layout."
Comment: Whether the peals go at the front (as formerly), in the second half (as now) or in the middle doesn't seem to the committee particularly relevant to the success of the paper. As to format the number of changes in the last few years - made for economic reasons and never immediately acceptable - is evidence of much thought by the committee.
(xiv) Quote: Page 15. Call change news. "Another key position in the contents. It is our belief that an untapped subscriber potential of 500-1,000 readers presents itself here." Suggestions made for various articles by certain already busy people. "Ample opportunity for photographs." "It is again accepted that call change news may well not run to a full or even half page every week. Then the available space may be given to other miscellaneous items."
Comment: There is no evidence for the assertion that up to 1,000 new subscribers are likely from call change ringers. The recent census gave 45 people out of 1,376 who were call change ringers only, and this is the only available figure. Fifty-two pages a year, every year, of notes and articles about call change ringers is clearly not feasible, even if the writers were available. Ample photographs will cost still more money. Half pages left over will not be needed for other items already over-catered for.
(xv) Quote: Page 16. Composition page. Suggestions are made for more articles.
Comment: More articles from other busy people. Fifty-two pages a year, every year!
(xvi) Quote: Page 17. Miscellany. "A crossword, general anecdotes, quizzes, competitions, etc., when space permits. Perhaps the … members of the Exercise would be approachable here. Needs considerable organisation of course."
Comment: More work for more busy people and perhaps costly organisation. Recent issues have contained crosswords and quizzes, but a full page, every week, is beyond what is possible. General anecdotes would be needed to fill up the Gossip and other pages.
(xvii) Quote: Page 18. Technical feature, "As a counterpart to the main feature, a half page or full page technical feature." Ten examples given of possible articles. Eleven members of the Exercise are named (without their permission) as contributors.
Comment: Many of the suggestions are interchangeable with those for page 3 (Quote (v) above). Five of the ringers named as contributors already appear in the list for page 3 articles. A compliment, I am sure, but those five are going to be even busier than the other six to produce 52 pages a year, every year.
(xviii) Quote: Page 19. "General news, obituary, etc., recognising the obituary column must be printed on another page to marriages, for example."
Comment: General news would be amply provided for on other pages. Many weeks, fortunately, the obituaries would not fill a page.
(xix) Quote: Page 20. This week's anniversary. "Almost every week sees the birth, death or some anniversary of some famous ringer or event. Our plans would be to organise suitable people with an interest in the historical side to cope with this."
Comment: More work (52 pages a year, every year) by someone else and more organisation for someone else.
(xx) Quote: Pages 21-22. Notices.
(xxi) Quote: Pages 23-24. Advertisements. "A very real and considerable source of revenue."
Comment: This has yet to be proved. Also the possibility of filling two pages regularly at whatever charge. And we are not convinced that the Exercise wants us to publish advertisements just to fill a larger paper. Primarily our readers want news.
It will be seen that Messrs. Beresford and Pipe, before even having attended a committee meeting and with no experience of the practicalities or the practicabilities involved, had suggested a "new paper" to start on a specified date. This new paper would cost an additional £4,000 a year over the expected increased costs for 1967 plus, say, £2,000 a year for extra staff and accommodation; plus, say, a minimum of £500 a year to pay for articles; plus a more expensive layout for quarter peals; plus the cost of illustrations and photographs for Belfry Gossip and for call change ringers.
To offset these costs we are advised that we can get £500-£1,000 additional revenue from advertising (though we are not told how); plus the whole of an increase of 3d. a week in the price of the "R.W."
As we have shown, both these figures of additional revenue are suspect.
The Editor's estimate of the produce of 3d. increase, allowing for drop in circulation, is about £20 a week. The committee now have assets of about £10,000 - one year's operation on the new scale suggested would make that look silly!
Looking quickly at the suggested pagination we see that we have to find every week (and perhaps pay for) a full page cover photograph; material for feature articles, beginners' articles, compositions, call changes and editorial amounting to 5½ pages a week, as well as filling up any over provision of space for gossip, miscellaneous, obituaries, advertisements, etc. It must be realised that every article submitted is not suitable for publication (at least one member of the "R.W." Committee has written unpublished articles), so an even larger number of articles would be needed. In a bad week one could envisage a number of blank spaces in a 24 page paper.
The foregoing was, therefore, the position when the committee met at Derby on October 8th, 1966. At the outset a senior member of the committee was very outspoken about the action of Messrs. Beresford and Pipe in leading an agitation against the committee before the Council meeting at Bath (see paragraph 7, et seq.) and at what he considered was the underhand way this was done. He also objected strongly to receiving pages of barely legible suggestions the day before the meeting (after waiting many months) and being expected to consider them properly in the committee that day. After about ten minutes Mr. Pipe walked out of the meeting, in spite of entreaties from the convener and other members of the committee to remain and explain his suggestions to the committee. He did not return.
As can be imagined it took the welcome lunch break to reduce the tension in the Committee, after which much useful discussion took place. Mr. Beresford explained his and Mr. Pipe's suggestions; he was given appropriate replies by other members and the Editor, and the committee agreed on certain changes which they considered they could now afford. A further meeting was arranged for January 28th, 1967, and the hope was expressed that Mr. Pipe would be able to attend.
(NOTE.- The "R.W." issues subsequent to the committee meeting are evidence of some of the decisions then taken. See paragraph 41 below.)
We have been told repeatedly that the Exercise has been kept in the dark about the work of the committee and what happened! We would, therefore, draw attention to the Editorial on October 21st, 1966, which dealt with the meeting of October 8th. To save members of the Council the trouble of looking this up, we quote fully from the article headed "Planning for the Future":-
"The democratically elected committee entrusted by the Central Council to produce a brighter and better 'R.W.' met … having had more than three months to assimilate the opinions of the Exercise and to submit new ideas for improvements.
"Two days before the committee met the members received a 12 page (sic) typed document, setting out 'the scope and contents' of the journal and the financial obligations involved. This had been prepared by Messrs. D. Beresford and G. W. Pipe, There were also cover designs and mock make-up for the committee's consideration.
"Many of the points raised … had been considered by the Committee previously … Mr. R. S. Anderson extended the fullest co-operation, sympathetically considering the points raised by Mr. Beresford and answering if possible the questions submitted.
"The first point … the title block … There was a general opinion that the time had come for a change … The choice was a clean-cut design of Mr. Pipe's … this the Editor considered could be appropriately adapted.
"Finance was involved in the next step. The two alternatives were a 24 page issue at regular intervals, and a tinted cover with a picture … on the front page and 16 pages inside. Both issues would cost … about £50 more than the present … 16 page paper.
"The question of the quality of paper used came under very close scrutiny.
"The Editor was instructed to produce a tinted paper issue … in December. The committee empowered the Editor to produce up to twenty 24-page issues during 1967, provided the material available was suitable.
"To meet demand, it was suggested that Associations should select an appropriate personality for a picture and biography, and also submit an appropriate picture for a front page illustration.
"It was felt that the Bellfounders' page … and Gossip could be enlarged if there were live correspondents and a readiness on the part of readers to send information to the Editor.
"With more space available a great range of special articles will be required. A beginners' corner and a technical page might be regular features. We also hope that call change ringers … will have their interest.
"A volunteer with an interest in the historical side of our art is required.
"The sale of the paper can only successfully be stimulated locally and much depends on local officials. There is a genuine desire on the part of the committee to keep the selling price of the journal as at present.
"Sales revenue will never be enough to finance journals like the 'R.W.' … we are now reaping a little from the prudence in the past … The 'R.W.' … is planning to spend very much more on larger papers, confident that such is the family spirit of the Exercise that it will not be let down."
These extracts indicate that the Editor gave the Exercise a very full account of the committee's meeting. It would have been wrong for him to mention at that date that one new member (it was hoped only temporarily) had taken umbrage and walked out. The value of a committee is in its decisions, taken after full discussion not in the idiosyncrasies of its individual members. No committee chairman would have his members' confidence if he advertised the disagreements among them.
As agreed at the October meeting, the committee met again at Derby on January 28th - as hoped there was a full attendance. The auditors' estimate of the 1966 surplus was considered, as were proposals of Seven Corners Press, Ltd., for increases in printing charges. It was agreed that the committee would try to negotiate reductions, but that if this was not possible the new terms would have to be accepted.
It was agreed to obtain the views of readers by a questionnaire and Mr. Beresford's offer to analyse the results and present them to the next meeting was accepted. "It was resolved that Messrs. Beresford and Pipe prepare and circulate to the committee a draft form for examination and approval prior to its insertion in 'R.W.'" Among other matters discussed were various ways of improving circulation and the likely effect of any price increases. Some at least of the committee considered the journey and time spent worth while.
As agreed on January 28th, the Editor, on March 10th, 1967, announced the proposed issue on March 17th of census forms and at the same time gave further financial information. To quote:-
"a questionnaire to our readers, which is the brain child of two members of the committee, Dennis Beresford and G. W. Pipe. It is an attempt to analyse the 'R.W.'s' family; to find out what the readers desire for the journal and how they could prefer the space available to be utilised."
"The desire behind the questionnaire is to ascertain how to fashion the 'R.W.' so that a big sales drive can be attempted. This does not mean embarking on extravagant ideas."
As indicated in paragraph 28 above, the draft questionnaire was circulated to the committee for approval, but was not received until March 9th, only just before zero hour for going to press. Nevertheless frantic efforts by some of the committee, helped by the Editor, managed to make a few improvements. It is extremely difficult to frame questions which do not lead the reader to an answer you hope for. For example, part of question 12 said that part of an increased price of 3d. a week must occur, whereas the committee had firmly set its face against an increase, unless one was proved inevitable later. In its original form question 8 said "Are you a call change ringer?" Ninety-nine per cent of ringers would have had to answer "Sometimes" or "Often." The last minute addition of the word "only" made it possible to reply "Yes" or "No," giving useful information.
As previously arranged. a further meeting, attended by all the committee, was held on April 29th, to consider primarily the draft annual report and the accounts for 1966, and the report on the census. The draft report was amended and agreed, and Mr. Beresford gave a verbal summary of the results of the census and was thanked for his work. He agreed to prepare a comprehensive report on the replies for examination at the next meeting, fixed for July 22nd, 1967.
The position, when too Central Council met at Nottingham, has been outlined above. The committee's report (as printed in "R.W." June 16th, 1967, page 407) was in the hands of members. It might not have been unreasonable to assume, in view of the time given to the subject at Bath, only twelve mouths before, the fact that the new committee had only been in existence for 12 months and in the year under review (1966) had met only once, that the Council would have wished to devote its time to other matters. But it was not to be.
Just before the Standing Committee meeting the evening before, the Council secretary was handed separate letters from Messrs. Beresford and Pipe. Each of the letters (of clearly premeditated resignation from the committee) ended by saying that business commitments rendered it difficult to give the time to the work of the committee. Neither of the resigned members mentioned this reason in his speech to the Council. (See "R.W." June 16th, 1967, for report.)
The Editorial of "R.W." June 9th 1967, referred briefly to the resignations and a very full account of the debate was given on June 16th. In addition, on page 406, the Editor gave "The Background to the Debate." The two issues of "R.W." gave such a full and fair report of proceedings and the events leading up to them that it does not seem necessary to lengthen this pager by quoting. They refute most emphatically suggestions that have continued since the Council meeting that the Exercise has not been told the full story.
A week before the next committee meeting Mr. Beresford was good enough to send to each member of the committee a photocopied MS. giving a full summary of the replies to the census. A typed copy was promised to follow, but has not.
On July 19th, Mr. Pipe wrote at length to each member of the committee repeating many of the points made in Documents A and B, basing his remarks this time on the census returns and telling the committee what they should do. "We would reiterate how essential it is for the 'R.W.' Committee to …" etc. "Each member should …" etc.
To bring this long story up to date, the committee met again at Derby on July 22nd as arranged, the main reason being to consider a full report on the census. Messrs. Beresford and Pipe, who were members when the date was fixed, were invited to answer any questions which might arise on the report they had agreed to present. In the event, both of them had other engagements that day. After a very full discussion of the summarised replies the committee authorised the Editor to report in the "R.W." on the most interesting details. (See August 4th, page 551.) The Editor expressed, at the committee's request, their public thanks to Messrs. Beresford and Pipe for the work done. The committee also supported the convener in his derision that from September to Christmas, 1967, 20 page cover issues of the "R.W." should be printed weekly.
This last decision was announced by the Editor in the "R.W." of August 4th, and on August 11th in a review entitled "The Next Step" the Editor dealt with the foregoing decision and with the latest views of Messrs. Beresford and Pipe. He went fully into costs and work involved in various proposals.
Our quotations and references in the foregoing paragraphs to statements in the "R.W." from time to time completely answer the suggestions that members of the Council or other readers of the "R.W." are not told of the committee's proposals or intentions. We are content to conclude this very long account with a statement of the changes made in the "R.W." over recent months.
It must be emphasised that, for mechanical reasons, the "R.W." must contain 16 or 24 normal pages (multiples of eight). It is possible, when it can be afforded, to add a special cover (coloured or otherwise), giving another four pages. A 16 page issue can therefore be turned into a 20 page issue for about the same cost as a plain 24 page issue. Hitherto, the normal practice has been to have a 16 page issue, with an occasional 24 pages when the amount of news justified it. For example, a 24 page issue was necessary on June 17th, 1966, to cover Central Council news.
Let us see what the effect of the new committee and its decisions of October 8th (and subsequently) have been:-
|24 pages, including 1 page of compositions.
|New heading to normal 16 page issues.
|Special coloured cover (Mancroft), plus 16 inside pages - including half page special advert and 1 page for a crossword and "party games."
|Normal 16 pages with special advert.
|24 page issue. Picture on front.
|Coloured cover, plus 16 pages - half page cartoons and special advert.
|Coloured cover, plus 16 pages - including 1 page of compositions.
|Coloured cover, plus 16 pages - including1 page technical feature, 1 page beginners' article, 1 page compositions and half page crossword.
|Coloured cover, plus 16 pages - including half page crossword, 1 page quiz and 6 additional illustrations.
|Coloured cover, plus 16 pages.
|24 pages. Picture on front.
|Coloured cover, plus 16 pages.
|16 pages, with front page picture.
From September until Christmas each issue will be 20 pages, including a coloured cover, as indicated in paragraph 37 above.
We consider this record of achievement speaks for itself - the advent of three new members on the committee (two unfortunately for such a short time), the financial situation and the full co-operation of the Editor have made this possible. This is being written in August, 1967, but we are hopeful that the gradual increase in circulation since the last price increase will be maintained, thus justifying the work and faith of the committee and their staff.
In apologising for the length of this document, we point out that, like all members of the Council who are chosen to serve on the various committees, we too are busy people, who are only too happy to volunteer our time and services for the good of the Exercise. Perhaps immodestly, however, we consider that our work is more onerous than that of some other committees of the Council but that the future prospects of the Exercise depend more upon the regular appearance of the "R.W." than on any other single factor.
In the leading article in the Golden Jubilee number Mr. Frederick Sharpe wrote:-
"The 'R.W.' is a specialist paper … this creates problems not encountered in the ordinary course of journalism … one of the most difficult things is to keep a true balance to suit the majority and yet to meet the need of all … within the available financial resources … We are not likely to receive an attractive take-over bid from a national newspaper … We need greater support … A much greater circulation would make possible the publication of more technical articles and reports and our journal would have a much wider appeal in consequence."
These statements are as relevant today. As instructed, we have set out above the measures we have taken and some plans we have made. Other plans depend entirely upon our readers. The active support of the Council and the Exercise shown by an increased circulation and a readiness to contribute news and articles of interest, will enable the "R.W". to meet the needs of the Exercise and be ample reward for our efforts.
The Ringing World, June 7, 1968, pages 439 to 442